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December 7, 2000 - December 8, 2000

Railways' third passage to Delhi bombs Friday, December 8, 2000

AHMEDABAD: In 1976, the Railways had mooted a rail-corridor project from Gujarat to Delhi. Twenty-four years hence, prolonged delays have rendered this third alternative to Delhi 'unviable'.

The proposed broad-gauge line from Nadiad-Kapadwanj-Modasa to Delhi via Marwar, Chittorgarh and Ajmer would not only have eased traffic on Ahmedabad sector, but also helped in developing a large expanse of backward area in Sabarkantha.

At present, there are only two routes to Delhi: one from Ahmedabad to Delhi via Palanpur and Ajmer; the other a broad-gauge route passing through Vadodara, Dahod and Ratlam.

In 1976, the Railways had worked out a proposal to extend the Nadiad-Kapadwanj-Modasa track by 14 kilometres up to Titoi village (Shamlaji). This was to meet the Himatnagar-Udaipur section. This 14-km stretch would have provided Gujarat an alternative route to Delhi, a continuous corridor of nearly 500 km.

But when the railway authorities, after a prolonged delay of 22 years, directed the deputy collector of Modasa in 1998 to acquire and mark-out land for laying tracks to Titoi (as per the 1976 plan), it was found that extension of tracks was not possible.

The situation had changed completely with the fast development of Modasa town. With help from the Town Planning Department and Modasa authorities, the proposed railway alignment area, as per the plan of 1976, along with its surroundings, had been developed into thickly populated residential areas.

Faced with this reality, some engineers of the Western Railway proposed that the Kapadwanj-Modasa track be diverted eastwards by a few degrees just before it entered Modasa railway station. This would make the extension possible as the new alignments along the diversion would pass through an agricultural zone, the engineers said. But two years later, the rail authorities have liquidated the plan of extending the track further.

Talking about the project, Western Railway general manager VD Gupta told 'The Times of India': "The project has now become unviable. Looking at the projected revenue prospects, there does not seem any hope for the project."

The earlier proposal had been made keeping in mind the socio-economic situation of the area. The project would have helped develop over 2000 square kilometres of land sustaining a population of over eight lakh in Bayad, Modasa, Shamlaji, Bhiloda and its adjoining areas.

Interestingly, last month in a meeting that the railway authorities had with the state parliamentarians on various gauge conversion proposals and other rail-related issues, the proposal for the 14-kilometre extension on the Nadiad-Kapadwanj-Modasa route never came up for discussion.

BKS launches signature campaign against WTO Thursday, December 7, 2000

GANDHINAGAR: The state unit of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the farmers' wing affiliated to RSS, has launched a move to collect one crore signatures to pressurise the Centre to withdraw from signing an agreement with the World Trade Organisation.

A delegation of the BKS, headed by its leaders Prafulla Sejalia and Ramesh Chaudhary on Wednesday met Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and apprised him of the move and also the Sangh's plan to help the government in dealing with drought conditions.

Though the Bharatiya Janata Party has not issued any directive on the move, it is learnt that more than nine BJP legislators have already signed on the memorandum to be submitted to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

A majority of the ministers and legislators owing allegiance to the Sangh Parivar are in dilemma on whether join the signature campaign. The BKS propaganda has become a talking point in the corridors of power. But the ministers have so far only given verbal consent in favour of this move. The BKS, which is the influential body of farmers of Gujarat, has a total membership of over 12,00,000.

When contacted, BKS general secretary Ramesh Chaudhary told The Times of India that, "we will go ahead with our plan." He explained that the aim was to protect the farmers who were not being paid remunerative prices for their agriculture produce. Besides, the implementation of the WTO agreement was anti-farmer, and has to be opposed.

BKS members have decided to meet legislators and ministers individually and persuade them about the disadvantages of the conditions laid down in the WTO agreement. The execution of this agreement would push farmers into crisis in coming years when they would not get much on their agricultural produce.

The BKS leaders recently took out a massive rally against five -fold increase in electricity tariff ordered by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission. Not only that, the continuous erratic supply of electricity to the farm sector by the Gujarat Electricity Board had a telling effect on the ruling party, which received the worst drubbing in the panchayat and civic elections.

Prospects of Pak freeing 112 fishermen brighten Thursday, December 7, 2000

RAJKOT: Chances of the release of 112 fishermen of Gujarat, mostly from Porbander, who are undergoing imprisonment in Pakistan, have become bright after Indian government's efforts to establish peace in the sub-continent, suspend military action against terrorists and declare unilateral ceasefire in the holy month of Ramjan.

It may be recalled that these fishermen going on 17 boats were forcibly taken away to Pakistani territory in a steamer by jawans of the Pakistan marine security agency near Jakhau coast in Kutch district. They were fishing illegally in the Indianterritorial water. The fishermen were handed over to the Pakistanipolice which sent them to different jails. For the past one and a half years, they are languishing in Pakistani prisons and some of them are even sick.

The Pakistani government had made an offer to release 85 of them but India rejected it as Gujarat government insisted on release of all the 112 fishermen. The state also made a representation to the Central government in this regard.

The state minister for fisheries told reporters at Porbander that these fishermen would be released from Pakistani jails in a month or so since a favourable situation has been created .

Meanwhile, a delegation of the leaders and office-bearers of the Gujarat Saurashtra Boats Association met the prime minister and the home minister in Delhi and made a representation demanding release of all the fishermen.

Strike affects postal services Thursday, December 7, 2000

RAJKOT: Postal services in Saurashtra-Kutch were paralysed on Tuesday as over 3,000 employees of post offices in the region went on an indefinite strike following a joint call given by the National Federation of Postal Employees, Federation of National Postal Organisation and Indian Postal Employees Federation.

The employees are demanding implementation of Talwar Committee recommendations for providing higher wages and other benefits.

The office bearers of the postal employees' unions claimed "100 per cent" success of the strike.

According to the president of Gujarat circle of the National Federation of Postal Employees, Atul Sheth, postal services were paralysed in the region following the strike. Financial transactions totalling about Rs 50 lakh and incoming and outgoing of about 50,000 postal items in Rajkot was affected due to the strike, he claimed. Over 1,000 postal employees joined the strike in Rajkot, he said.

Surendranagar District Postal Employees Union convenor P J Rana said postal services in most areas of the district were badly hit as the employees in the district joined the strike. The employees raised slogans in front of the head post office in Surendranagar. Meanwhile, a joint action committee was formed by the office bearers of district units of all the national postal employees' unions to intensify the stir, he said.

2 ISI agents held near Khavada Thursday, December 7, 2000

BHUJ: Against the backdrop of the red alert, two hardcore Pakistani agents were arrested by the BSF near Khavada in Kutch on Tuesday.

On noticing footprints around Bhediya Bet near the international border the BSF men tracked them to apprehend two ISI agents Valimamad Vadha (55) and Romtullah Mishry Lambh (50) at Kuran village. They possessed 250 gm of opium.

Valimamad Vadha hails from Kuran village with his wife and sons settled there. However, he went to Pakistan and has been a full-time ISI informer. Romtullah is from Paludi village in Badin district of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, both have been brought to the joint interrogation centre here. Security agencies have been searching for any consignment that might have been brought by these agents.

It is learnt that Valimamad is the most wanted ISI agent as he has been involved in many smuggling and narcotics cases.

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